A Language Without Words
We all know when love is spoken, nothing needs to be said
Recently, I was in New York City with an African-American colleague. One afternoon, we were in a very diverse parish where more than twenty nations of origin are represented, notably Caribbean Blacks, Central Americans, Caucasians, and Chinese. As my African American friend stood in the hallway, a Chinese family walked by. The young daughter, who appeared to be about 8 years old, looked up and smiled at my friend. She began to tap on his arm and made other playful gestures. He responded with warmth and playfulness in return. Suddenly, the little Chinese girl reached up as if she were trying to grasp heaven. As soon as she got her arms around my friend’s neck, she pulled herself up into his arms for a huge hug. Her parents waited patiently with soft smiles on their faces. When she was ready, she got down and went off with her family. No word was ever spoken. After all, he was Black and only spoke English. She was Asian and only spoke Chinese. But the language of love was unmistakable. Heart spoke to heart. Soul spoke to soul.
The scene made me think about how quickly we get into controversies, and how difficult it is to accept others who are different from ourselves. We can capture and solidify our hostilities because there are words to express our experience. The language of love, the language of heaven is often drowned out by words that are heavy with the moisture of prejudice, laden with the weight of pre-conceived ideas, brimful with the energy of charged emotions.
The word tolerance is grounded in the Latin word tolerare, which means to endure, to bear, or to lift up. It made me wonder what might happen in our diverse world, what might happen in our country as we prepare to inaugurate President Barack Obama, what might happen in the broken relationships of our lives, what might happen in our hearts and souls that have been formed to rest in love, what might happen if we would simply set aside the words that describe our agendas in life, and try to 'lift up and bear with' those who are different from us or who disagree with us.
We would certainly have to swallow some of our need to be right. We would have to encounter and see each other with different eyes. We would have to take a chance on one another. We would have to attribute the highest motive to others’ behavior. But, oh my, what a way to mirror the Kingdom of God!